"In 1972," the gravelly-voiced narrator of the television (see entry under 1940s—TV and Radio in volume 3) action series The A-Team explained, "A crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit." The men soon escaped from the maximum-security stockade in which they were incarcerated, the narrator continued. He further explained that, although they were still wanted by the U.S. government, "If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team."
That opening voice-over perfectly set the tone for this exciting mix of action and macho fellowship, which aired on NBC from 1983 to 1987. Inspired by films like The Dirty Dozen (1967) and Kelly's Heroes (1970), The A-Team confronted the commandos with a new and dangerous mission every week and usually ended with a firefight or an explosion. The show proved a blockbuster hit, especially with young male audience members. The show also made a cult hero out of one of its cast members, the hulking, bejeweled former bodyguard known as Mr. T, famous for his many gold chains.
Four men formed the core of the A-Team and remained with the series for the entire five-season run. Veteran leading man George Peppard (1928–1994) played John "Hannibal" Smith, the cigar-chomping leader of the group. His signature line, uttered in almost every episode, was "I love it when a plan comes together." Dwight Schultz (1947–) played the wild man of the group, H. M. "Howlin' Mad" Murdock, a flaky former pilot who was constantly being committed to the insane asylum. Dirk Benedict (1945–) played the team's romantic rogue, Templeton "Faceman" Peck. The good-looking con artist was often called upon to charm his away into (or out of) dangerous situations.
By far the most popular member of The A-Team was its hulking mechanic, Bosco "Bad Attitude" Baracus. A muscular black man with a Mohawk hairstyle and a curious fear of flying, "B. A.," as he was called, was a mechanical genius who could fix anything or build a tank out of bamboo if the occasion called for it. Playing B. A. was one-time Hollywood (see entry under 1930s—Film and Theater in volume 3) bodyguard Lawrence Tureaud (1952—), who adopted the professional name Mr. T. The gentle giant quickly captured the imagination of the show's viewers and began appearing on lunch boxes, in action figures, and in movies such as Rocky III (1982). After a much-publicized battle with cancer in the 1990s, he began a show business comeback as a commercial pitchman in the early twenty-first century. The A-Team lives on in reruns.
—Robert E. Schnakenberg
For More Information
The A-Team Site.http://www.buyersmls.com/americantv/ateam.htm (accessed April 3, 2002).
T., Mr. Mr. T, The Man with the Gold: An Autobiography. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1984.
The Unofficial A-Team Home Page.http://www.lvdi.net/~duke101 (accessed April 3, 2002).